June 19, 2009

Ich liebe Berlin

Posted in photography, travel at 7:35 pm by Mike Milinkovich

I love Berlin.

This week was my second visit to the city, and the first time that I really had a chance to play tourist. You can find some of my favourite pictures over on Flickr.

The first time I visited the city I knew I liked it, but I really couldn’t articulate why. I had just recently been in Paris and the way I explained it was “Paris is chic, Berlin is cool”. Which is true.

But after looking over the pictures from this week, I realized a least part of the reason why I love Berlin is that it goes past the other major European cities in revealing its past. London, Paris, etc. make a point of showing off their history. Berlin puts the burden of its history front and centre. From the statue of a scowling Soviet soldier, to the unrepaired bullet holes, to the Holocaust Memorial, Berlin gives equal time to its unpleasant past whereas the other cities only reveal their glories. The whole history is there to find on public display, not just the victories.

That’s not to say that Berlin is sombre. The public art is incredible with a very cool mix of classical and modern. The street scene is hopping with some of the best buskers I’ve seen anywhere.

If you haven’t thought of Berlin as a travel destination, think again. It is a very walkable and lovely city with great hotels, restaurants and bars. I will definitely be going back. Next time I hope to be able to spend some significant time visiting the museums. From all reports they are incredible.

Some random thoughts on what to do or see:

  • If you go the Holocaust Memorial don’t just look at it. Walk through it. If you haven’t been disoriented in the middle of it, you’re missing the point.
  • I can highly recommend both the Westin Grand and the Intercontinental hotels. Especially the latter, as its location close to the Tiergarten, Zoo and Breitscheidplatz are hard to beat. They’re certainly not cheap, but they are both excellent.
  • If you have the legs for it, the view from the top of the Victory Column (Siegessäule) is pretty incredible. But your legs will be burning by the time you walk to the top.
  • The public transit is outstanding. I used the ICE to get there and the U-Bahn, S-Bahn and buses in the city. Clean, reliable and on-time.